Bristol earns coveted UNESCO City of Film status in recognition of its thriving movie industry

Bristol’s reputation as a world-leading film industry centre has been recognised by UNESCO, which has named it as a City of Film.

The announcement was made this week by the Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

Bristol, home to world leaders such as Aardman Animations and a host of smaller production companies, now becomes part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, which celebrates cities that work together towards a common mission for cultural diversity and sustainable urban development.

Other UNESCO Cities of Film include Rome, Sydney, Galway and Bradford.

Pictured: Sherlock The Abominable Bride filming on location in Bristol

Today’s announcement not only reflects Bristol’s role as a popular filming and cultural destination but also the wider economic impact the industry has on the city.

A report by UWE revealed that Bristol’s film and TV industries generated £140.3m for the city’s economy in 2016. Bristol Film Office registered a total of £18.3m inward investment generated by film and television production in 2016/17 with a 30% rise in number of productions assisted to shoot in the city.

Among movies recently made in Bristol are upcoming feature films The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (directed by Mike Newell) and Stan & Ollie (directed by Jon S. Baird), as well as TV credits Poldark (BBC One), Sherlock (BBC One), Doctor Who (BBC One), Broadchurch (ITV), The White Princess (STARZ) and The Crystal Maze (Channel 4).

UNESCO pointed to Bristol’s numerous pop-up screenings, popular locations, its well-established skilled crew base and world-class training and education, alongside its film festivals and the award-winning Watershed Cultural Cinema and Digital Creativity Centre.

READ MORE: Bristol’s star rises as location for film industry

One of Bristol’s strengths was seen as its designated Film Office service, which supports all types of production in the city. The office is part of Bristol City Council, which also owns the Bottle Yard Studios – the largest dedicated film and TV studio facility in the West of England, and an epicentre for production in the region which has created a large creative hub of facilities companies at its South Bristol location.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “This is fantastic news and a ringing endorsement of Bristol’s position as a world leader in film production, education and training.

Pictured: The Bottle Yard Studios in South Bristol

“Our reputation as a diverse and creative city has long helped to attract productions and talent across film, TV drama, animation and of course natural history.

“I hope this recognition will be a catalyst for bigger opportunities for the city and Bristolians to showcase Bristol as a centre for film.

“Bristol’s cultural sector is a diverse industry that plays an important role in breaking down the barriers inequality creates. Our ambition is that the education, training and employment opportunities developed by the sector will benefit all communities across Bristol and being named as an UNESCO City of Film is a step towards meeting this goal.”

Bristol’s bid for the UNESCO City of Film status included the input of leading lights from across the city’s film and TV sector from production, education, screen heritage and exhibition, including Watershed, Knowle West Media Centre, Calling The Shots, Aardman Animations, BBC Bristol, Encounters Festival, Bristol Festivals and many more. It was also backed by UWE and the University of Bristol.

Unlike other international designations for cities, such as capital of culture, it is not awarded for a single year – meaning Bristol will be known as a City of Film for many years to come.

Bottle Yard Studios site director Fiona Francombe said: “This is a great result, we warmly welcome the recognition that UNESCO City of Film status will bring to Bristol, a city with film and TV production at its core. 

Pictured: Bristol’s Watershed Cultural Cinema & Digital Arts Centre

“In recent years The Bottle Yard Studios has attracted new attention from producers at home and abroad, providing fresh opportunities for the local industry, but it’s also important to note that the longevity of Bristol’s filming heritage is testament to its outstanding specialist workforce.

“The art directors, set builders, camera operators, supporting artistes, make-up artists, costume designers, visual effects and post production specialists – talented experts that help this sector stand out as an essential cornerstone in Bristol’s cultural and economic success.

“This new status will raise Bristol’s profile on the international stage even further. It will bolster our reputation as a city that offers the full package of support and really understands the language of filmmaking.”

Manchester also takes its place alongside Bristol as part of the Creative Cities Network as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Created in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is a network of creative cities working together towards a common mission for cultural diversity and sustainable urban development. It has 116 members from 54 countries covering seven creative fields – crafts & folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music and media arts.

Arts, heritage and tourism minister John Glen MP said today: “This is fantastic news for both Bristol and Manchester and recognition of their global significance to film and literature. This UNESCO designation will enhance their reputation around the world and help forge strong partnerships with other nations.”

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